PATHEIN, Irrawaddy Division — Eight wild elephants were killed by poachers in six months from January to the end of June in Irrawaddy Division, according to the divisional police force.
“Poachers used to kill elephants with percussion-lock firearms. But we found that they are now using an old method that utilizes crossbows and poisoned bolts,” police lieutenant colonel Kin Maung Latt of the Irrawaddy Division Police Force told The Irrawaddy.
Of the eight cases, police arrested the poachers in four of them, are still investigating three cases, and closed one due to lack of evidence.
Forest reserves in Pathein, Ngapudaw and Thabaung townships in Pathein District are home to wild elephants.
Poachers take the tusks, hide, flesh, and tails from hunted elephants and sell them to smugglers along the Pathein-Mawtin road. From there, smugglers take the items via the Pathein-Monywa road to Mandalay Division, where they smuggle them into China via the Mandalay-Muse road.
In the past, the majority of the elephant poachers were from Minbu, Ngape, and Sidoktaya townships in Magwe Division. But some of the Irrawaddy residents who had accompanied elephant poachers in the past are now hunting as well, according to the Irrawaddy Division Police Force.
“Some locals have learned how to hunt elephants after accompanying poachers. But they still don’t know how to make the poison. So, they take the poison from elephant poachers in Magwe,” said police lieutenant colonel Khin Maung Latt.
“It is a real cause for concern that locals are involved in poaching wild elephants. It has become more difficult for police to arrest the hunters,” he added.
Though the Forestry Department deployed forestry security police in Pathein and Thabaung townships last year to prevent the hunting of wild elephants and illegal logging, elephant poaching persists.
“I think there should be routine security patrols around the forest reserves to prevent elephant poaching. Only when security forces can chase and forcibly arrest the poachers like soldiers, can poaching be prevented. But now, migrant workers who have links with poachers tip them off about police, and they just run when police come,” said Ko Tun Lay, administrator of Tin Chaung village tract in Ngapudaw Township, who is also a private elephant breeder.
Ko Tun Lay, an ex-mahout suggested establishing inspection gates on major roads and smuggling routes to prevent the smuggling of elephant parts.
Last year, poachers killed 13 wild elephants in the region and police arrested hunters in four of the cases. They are still investigating six cases and closed three cases, as they could not identify the poachers.